Spec Ops: The Line

Yet another war game? Perhaps on first inspection. Once the joypad is firmly in your hand though, it doesn’t take much more than a few minutes to realise that Spec Ops does a lot of things differently from other shooters. Different in a good way, of course.

It’s a third-person shooter and just like Gears of War the environments have a ‘destroyed beauty’ theme. Dubai has been hit by raging sandstorms, sending the city into chaos. The plan is to assist in evacuation but things quickly take a turn for the worse. As you try to survive against armed looters and US soldiers who have turned against one another you’ll find yourself taking cover inside shopping malls, hotels, TV stations, nightclubs, museums and more. War games in which the skies are blue and the sun is shining bright are rare things indeed.

Occasionally there’s the chance to use sand to your advantage – windows can be shot out to let sand flood in, while grenades thrown into the yellow stuff will blind any soldiers nearby.

The horrors of war are impossible to ignore in this game – charred bodies and evidence of executions are common sights. By the time you reach the epic conclusion your squad are incredibly worse for wear, feeling battered, bruised and betrayed. The storyline has had a great deal of attention put into it, as have the cut-scenes which feature different moral choices. The voice acting impresses too, and although there is a hell of a lot of swearing the things the soldiers face justifies their potty mouths.

The enemies are a relentless bunch indeed. They dig in deep, will flank you and often charge at your location. Thankfully you can order one of your AI controlled team-mates to take down certain targets. The difficulty level is pretty tough – and some obscure checkpoint placing doesn’t help matters – but it’s never a frustrating game as there are always different ways to approach situations. Look around the ravaged environments and you may find a supply of grenades or another path. The chatter between your team-mates shouldn’t be ignored either as they alert you to heavy troopers, snipers and more.

The story flows brilliantly, keeping on your proverbial toes constantly. During a couple of missions you’re left on your lonesome to survive until back up appears, while later you’re placed in situations where enemies attack from all around you. The couple of on-rails sections present help to provide a change of pace and even the achievements have had some thought put into them. They unlock at a steady place and a lot – such as kicking an enemy in the face as you vault over an obstacle – are fun to try and gain.

The multi-player mode is very similar to Call of Duty. The perks are even still called perks – no attempt has been made to try and disguise them as something else. Players who have put in the hours and unlocked the best guns do have something of an unfair advantage over newcomers, but ‘noobs’ do get the occasional helping hand. We once respawned right next to a gun turret, for instance. Developers Yagar have included a few unique elements – there are zip-lines that can be used and sandstorms can appear at any time which obscure your field of vision. These storms provide a chance to move to different positions without being spotted.

When starting your online career only three different modes are available, including one based around destroying high value targets in the opposition’s base, with more modes being added as you level up. Co-op play should be available by the time you read this, as a free download.

When Spec Ops was first announced we didn’t really have much enthusiasm for it. Having now played it and enjoyed it thoroughly, we have nothing but praise. It’s gritty, impeccably designed and it has a brilliant thought provoking story to tell.

Still thinking this is just another war game? Should have gone to Specsavers. (Sorry).

Matt Gander

Matt is Games Asylum's most prolific writer, having produced a non-stop stream of articles since 2001. A retro collector and bargain hunter, his knowledge has been found in the pages of tree-based publication Retro Gamer.

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